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Monday, November 5, 2012

Contractors and Crapscape

By Robert Schwaninger

In 2000 my wife, Isabel, and I decided to move from our townhouse to a single-family detached home in Annandale. What the house is supposedly detached from is up to speculation, but along with the house we got our own half acre of land. For those who don’t know what land is, it’s that dirt stuff that produces unwanted vegetation, pools of mud, streams of mosquitoes, and other noxious elements that only a Sierra Club pansy would want to preserve.

Our land, known as a “builder’s lot,” was not user friendly. Instead our house was an oasis surrounded by a narrow patch of sod, beyond which was red clay mud that could suck up shoes, bicycles, and an old Buick. A 30 by 120-foot wide strip down the side was, in Longfellow’s words, primeval. In our words, it was a tangle of weeds, fallen trees, poison ivy, trash, bricks, rocks, and mice. If you were going to grow anxious, this was the place.

In our naiveté, we decided to tame the smelly beast that was our yard. The slobbering, oozing, steaming, vine-tangled mess beyond the expanse of sucking mud, dotted with dying walnut trees that attracted digging squirrels like a fender bender draws lawyers, needed attention. And we foolishly dreamed of bucolic strolls through the garden with a cool drink while admiring the progress of our well landscaped home.

After trying to contact the construction crew that built the Panama Canal, only to find that all of them had the same lame excuse (dead), we turned to local professionals. We started first with a landscape designer who explained the difference between “hardscape” and “landscape” that would we receive instead of our present crapscape.

If you have never dealt with a designer, here is what they do. They come to your home and discuss your “vision” which they try to quantify with drawings, models, books of materials, pictures, and every other medium short of sky writing, all the while beating senseless a calculator which reproduces figures faster than a rabbit on Viagra. The problem is we didn’t really know what the hell we wanted except that it would be nice to see our whole dog in the back yard and not just the top half.

After two months of discussing, drawing, and drinking heavily to capture the muse, you come up with tentative plan. You can see it. The pool, the patio, the deck, the plants, and every element combined in a carefully selected tribute to your vision. You idiot. That vision is what you get in the end. But there is no damn end!!!

What there is, is contractors. There is a special backwater of the gene pool that produces contractors. There are masons and carpenters and plant people and pool people and all sorts of subgroups, but these are all just subspecies of the general phylum, contractis eatfroum yerwallitam.

You met future contractors in school. These are the people who never did homework on time, showed up late for the school play, and forgot their locker combination, paste, pencils, and every other thing that was required for a smoothly run education. Yet, they possessed the ability to wind tales, excuses, reasons, and justifications for each and every personal mishap and delay in a way that would make Dick Cheney weep.

While these creatures “worked” for us, they rarely showed up (appearances were without warning and always loudly at the crack of dawn) and they always lacked either the tools or the materials or the manpower to do the job. However, because you are a trusting fool, you were made to understand that the fault wasn’t theirs. The fates deprived them of their saws or shovels. The gods didn’t order the right plants or bricks. And they aren’t to be blamed because their dog was sick and their mother needed bail, and their kid was found pregnant with an alien baby, and their gun permit ran out and it required immediate attention, and . . .

We called the landscape designer in March. The job which was to be completed by Independence Day was not done by mid-November. By then it was deer hunting season and your chances of spotting a contractor during deer hunting season are about the same as spotting a T-Rex tap dancing at the mall, the only difference being that one is extinct and the other is an illusion.

I don’t know which was more expensive, the cost of the job or the cost of our booze and anti-depressants. But one thing I can tell you, Isabel and I never failed to have our “materials” at the ready. Without our chemical aids, the headline in the Post would have read “Homeowners Go Berserk And Slay Four Workmen.” Says laughing hysterical killer, “we would have gotten them all but half of them didn’t show up because there was a severe mulch shortage in Nebraska that slowed delivery of . . .”

It has been over a decade since the contractors migrated out of our yard, lured away by the sound of another sucker’s wallet being opened. The retainer walls they built now tilt dangerously over the undulating pavers that were temporarily a flat patio. However, the leaning walls are parallel with the one side of the fence they installed. Meanwhile over half the plants are leafy, dead memories.

We’ve tried to explain the condition of our yard to visitors, but eventually we decided it was cheaper and easier to say that our house was constructed next to ancient ruins that are protected by the National Trust. “Yes, the eleventh century Potomac Indians did invent the spa pool.” Sure it’s a fib, but what else can you do with crapscape?

Robert Schwaninger, an attorney at Schwaninger & Associates Inc. of Annandale, is the author of several humor and children’s books. He will be signing books Saturday, Nov. 10, at the Annual Christmas Bazaar at the Annandale United Methodist Church, 6935 Columbia Pike, Annandale, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

1 comment:

  1. LMAO,
    I know what he went through..because my wife and I did the same thing with our lawn...
    So now, I don't feel like an idiot!! I'm not the only one!!